By: Rachel Farrell of the Irish Independent

The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that may see thousands of new visas issued to Irish citizens every year- if it passes through the Senate.

The E-3 work visa, a 2-year renewable visa that is currently reserved for Australian nationals only, would be issued to Irish citizens from the remainder of unused visas offered to Australians.

Here's everything you need to know about the E-3 visa, and what requirements are needed to apply for one.

What is the E-3 visa?

The E-3 visa, or the “Australian Specialty Occupation Professional” visa, is a visa that currently allows Australian nationals to work and live in America.

According to Australian immigration, the visa was first introduced in 2005 to allow professionals “to capitalise on the opportunities offered under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement”. 

There is no definite list of “special occupations” eligible for the visa, but it is defined as “theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge”.

Who is eligible?

At the moment, only Australian citizens are eligible for the visa, but that could be all set to change. The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that could make thousands of Irish people eligible for the visa, if it passes a final vote from the Senate.

What requirements are needed?

To apply for the E-3 visa, a legitimate offer of employment in the US is needed. You also must have necessary academic or other qualifying credentials, and be able to show that you have the “necessary license or other official permission” to practice in the specialty occupation. 

There is no age limit on the visa, but a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or at least 12 years experience in the specialty occupation is necessary.

How can I get one?

The first step for Australians interested in obtaining the E-3 visa is to find a suitable job in the US. Once someone has accepted a job offer, they can begin the application with their employer.

The application includes paperwork and a pre-organised interview with a consular officer. There is not yet any details on whether the Irish citizen application will be the same.

How long is the visa for?

The E-3 visa is a two-year visa, but it can be “indefinitely renewed”. It also allows spouses of recipients to work in America during this time, but not their children. 

How many visas are issued?

There is currently a total of 10,500 visas available for Australian citizens, but if the bill is passed, the remainder of the visas each year may be issued to Irish applicants. 

A maximum of 5,000 will be allocated to Irish citizens if the bill passes in the US Senate.

How much does it cost?

The application fee for Australians currently costs $205 USD (€180).

Why is it now being offered to Irish citizens?

Democrat Richard Neal and Republican Jim Sensenbrenner introduced new legislation to the Congress earlier this year, and it was passed in the House of Representatives during a Congress debate last night.

It is expected to go through the Senate in the coming weeks. 

Why did the Congressmen decide to sponsor the bill?

According to Mr Sensenbrenner, passing of the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the States.

"The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants - many of them who hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper," he said yesterday.

"I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated our country."